sealPurdue News

September 1997

On-line writing lab spanning the globe, setting standards

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Dangling participle dilemma ... problem with punctuation ... thanks to the Internet, thousands solve their own writing problems every day using on-line writing labs.

Purdue University's on-line writing lab, or OWL, was the first in the country. Between January and May of this year, it received 885,930 visits, or 7,000 hits each day, from writers looking for help on-line.

"It's baffling how important this resource has become," Muriel Harris, professor of English and Purdue's writing lab director, says. "We needed something to serve our students, but now we help businessmen around the world who have questions about English as a second language, teachers in rural communities who use our handouts because they don't have books, and other universities that are establishing their own OWLs."

The Web page originally was created as an extension of the university's writing lab. "This lab has grown from two desks to three rooms since 1976, but we had a little case of 'doctor syndrome' before we went on-line -- people had to come to us," Harris says. "Many weren't able to get in here during our office hours. Now we can serve our students 24 hours a day."

Jon Bush, OWL coordinator, says the Web site also is serving other English professors who are trying to create their own on-line labs at their universities.

"We were the first on-line writing lab in the country, so others come to us for help. Within our site is a resource page that is considered a 'must-see' in the industry. It contains an annotated bibliography of research articles on OWLs. It gets over 2,000 hits each semester," Bush says.

"It's pretty amazing to be part of a Web site that is truly international. We are sharing knowledge with anyone, anywhere. There are some school corporations that don't have the money for books but receive grants for computers. This lab reaches out to people who wouldn't otherwise have access to this kind of help."

The site has received numerous awards, including a four-star rating by the Excite Web search program; four stars by Netguide, a Web review site; a "Best of the Net" award by EZ Connect; and four stars by Luckman Interactive.

Purdue's OWL is mentioned and pictured in various book and textbooks, including a textbook for college computer science classes and a high school textbook for college-bound students.

The Web site is at

CONTACTS: Harris, (765) 494-3723; e-mail,; Bush, (765) 494-3723; e-mail,

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